Conning aspiring reporters in Meghalaya

BY linda| IN Regional Media | 12/06/2005
Who or what is the Bharatiya Adarsh Samachar? Or the Adarsh Political Party which shares the same address?

The money promised was tantalizing. During a stipulated three months training period the ‘stipend’ assured was Rs.9000/- per month. After training the promise was Rs.15,000/- . Applicants were advised to apply to Bharatiya Adarsh Samachar (BAS) at 405, Kundan Bhawan, Azadpur, Delhi 33.

Dozens of youngsters from the state looking for work did, thinking perhaps that this is the big break they’d been waiting for. For many it was a dream come true when they received the neatly stamped envelopes from the BAS office complete with a registration form and a pamphlet. In the write up the BAS ‘manager’ with no name given, assured the applicant among other things, that if "you are really keen to become a successful press reporter earn in lakhs, enhance your social status and also achieve popularity and prestige administrative and political levels you will fill in the enclosed press reporter (trainee) application form and come to our Delhi office on June 27, 2005 along with the specified registration fee at their own expense."

Traveling such a distance at one’s own expense for an interview sounds bad enough, but the registration form also carried the specific instruction that the applicant come with a bank draft of Rs.6000 made out to the BAS as registration fee to be appointed press reporter. The amount is non refundable. Many desperate job seekers ready to try anything were willing to pay. "I have a friend whose mother said she would gather the money and send it. She feels that they will get Rs. 9000 during trainee period and then Rs,15,000 after the three months which is very good," said Freddy (not real name).

He himself however was not such a push over. He went around to various newspaper offices to find out the background of the BAS. None seemed to know. Finally, he landed at the Press Information Bureau, Shillong office where the officials there directed them to phone an information officer in their PIB New Delhi. Freddy gave her the phone number given on the form ie 011 27670509. She tried the number several times but did not get any reply. But she told Freddy and his friends over the phone that she suspected this to be a ‘con job’. "Not even the largest selling newspapers like the Hindustan Times or the Times of India pay trainees so generously," she told them.

Interestingly, when Freddy made a long distance call from Shillong a few minutes later, the BAS office picked up the phone and held a conversation with their aspiring press reporter in which they told him that he could either come in person to the Delhi office or send the form and draft by mail.

An investigation by this reporter revealed that this same organization had already made a run of the town about two years ago with a similar ad in the same newspaper, The Shillong Times which celebrated its diamond jubilee recently. Hundreds had applied. They were a sorely disappointed lot. In fact two of these more courageous youngsters who had been to Delhi and back after applying for the job at that time had filed an FIR at the Laitumkhrah Police Station here in Shillong to get back their money. The registration fee that time was Rs.1500/-. They had told the police that instead of giving them training as promised each aspiring press reporter like them was given instruction to the effect that they would have to get advertisement worth about Rs.500 per week as well as get new subscribers for the newspaper at the rate of 500 subscriber per month.

Being novices they thought that this was the jog ‘press reporters’ do and came back to Shillong where the BAS set up an office with another Shillong girl as the front ‘manager.’ Surprisingly, the newspaper exists as they were shown copies of it, they confirmed. But it was after about three months that it dawned on them that they may have been conned. They filed the FIR with the help of some local activists. Police however did not know how to handle the case and left it at that.

However with the BAS back again it becomes imperative to find out its antecedents so that youngsters are not conned in the name of the press. The BAS claims that it is the "only national level newspaper that provides extensive training in the field of journalism and offers a guranteed career as a press reporter…" It also assures that they are "expanding their sources of news and information as such specially interested to give coverage to the developments in your area."

Interestingly, another classified ad has been appearing in The Shillong Times these days in which an organization called Adarsh Political Party (Regd) has advertised for 300 parcharaks/organizers in different districts and blocks of Meghalaya promising them an income of Rs.3000/ during training and after five months an income of Rs.5000 to 20,000 with other benefits. The address they have given is the same as the one above for BAS.

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